What do an American president, an Oscar nominee, a scientist who was the first able to split the nucleus of an atom, and a rebel have in common? Well, they are all famous Irish people who made different breakthroughs in various fields. Their stories are intriguing, in a sense that they left a legacy that will make people remember them for a very long time to come. Their works were spread around different parts of the world, and some of them made it to the top while still clinging to their Irish heritage.
In this article we will cover our top pick of inspirational Irish people you should know about!
We have broken our list down into segments, feel free to jump ahead to a section of your choosing!
- Famous Irish Historical Figures
- Famous Irish Politicians and Presidents
- Famous Irish Scientists and Inventors
- Famous Irish Actors
- Famous Irish Authors, Poets and Playwrights
- Famous Irish Musicians
- Famous Irish Artists
- Famous Irish Sportsmen and Sportswomen
- Famous Irish Olympians, Paralympians and Athletes
- Famous Irish Comedians
Famous Irish Historical figures
If you’re looking for Historical Irish figures, one name is sure to be included in any list, Michael Collins an Irish Revolutionary and leading figure in gaining our independence.
Michael Collins was born in Sam’s Cross, near Clonakilty, County Cork in 1890. At the age of 15, he left Ireland to work in London as a clerk in the post office. While in London, Collins joined the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) and the Irish Volunteers. Collins then returned to Ireland in 1916, where he fought in the GPO alongside Joseph Plunkett. Following Easter Rising, Collins was sent to a camp in Wales.
He was released in the first batch of prisoners in 1916 as he was not yet a well-known rebel. A couple of years after, he was elected to the first Dáil as a member of Sinn Féin, and he led a violent campaign against anything that represented British authority in Ireland – primarily the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Army. This put him at war with the British.
As head of the IRB, and, as minister of finance (executive in charge of money) in the Republican government, Collins successfully raised and handed out large sums of money on behalf of the rebel cause. Despite constant efforts, the British were unable to capture Collins or stop his work. The “Big Fellow” became an idolized and near-legendary figure in Ireland, and he won a reputation in Britain and abroad for ruthlessness, resourcefulness, and daring.
In late June 1922, after the population had supported the settlement in an election, Collins agreed to use force against the opposition. This action sparked a civil war, a bitter conflict in which the forces of the infant Irish Free State eventually overcame the extreme Republicans in May 1923.
After signing the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921, Collins famously said “I have signed my own death warrant”. While he had achived independence for 26 counties in Ireland he knew that his decsion would not be favourable, but he believed that it was the only way to stop the violence and death.
Collins was killed in an ambush in West Cork on August 22, 1922. He was only 31 years old, and in his short life he had helped negotiate a peace treaty recognising the Republic of Ireland as the Irish Free State
To this day, no-one is completely sure what happened or who killed him. No-one else was killed in the ambush. Collins’ body lay in state in Dublin for three days and thousands paid their respects. Thousands also lined the streets for his funeral procession.
You can learn more about Michael Collins and even take a tour of his house at the Michael Collins Museum in Clonakilty Co. Cork. Liam Neeson (who may or may not feature further down this list) starred as Michael Collins in the 1996 critically acclaimed film of the same name. It was the highest grossing film ever in Ireland upon its release.
Born on 21 November 1887 in Dublin City, Joseph Mary Plunknett was the eldest son of seven children. Plunkett suffered from Tuberculosis from a young age, but this did not cause his education to suffer. He was a keen scholar, published poet and well travelled man.
Plunkett was a key figure in the 1916 rising, as the director of military operations of the IRB and principal author of the Ireland Report which set out the basic military strategy for the rising.
Plunkett was plagued by ill health the week of the 1916 rising, undergoing major surgery at the beginning of April. Nevertheless he was in the GPO for the duration of Easter week.
After the surrender Plunket was executed by firing squad. Hours before his death Plunkett married his fiancé Grace Gifford, an illustrator and sister-in-law of Thomas McDonagh; a long-time close friend. The service took place in the chapel of Kilmainham Gaol on the evening before his death; the couples were only allowed 10 minutes together in Plunkett’s cell. You can find out more about his life here.
One of the most beloved songs in Ireland ‘Grace’ was written by Frank and Sea O’Meara in 1985. It tells the story of the marriage of Grace Gifford and Joseph Mary Plunkett and is preformed by Jim McCann from the Dubliners.
It is a sombre love song that reminds people of the sacrifices made and human aspect of the 1916 Rising, and has been covered by many Irish artists throughout the years. The version below is performed by Danny O’Reilly of the Coronas, his sister Róisin O, and their cousin Aoife Scott, on the Centenary of the Easter Rising.
Daniel O’Connell, known as “the Liberator,” was born on the 6th of August in 1775 near Cahirciveen in County Kerry. He was educated in France because as a Roman Catholic he was unable to go to University in Britain. O’Connell returned to Ireland, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in Dublin in 1798. He built up a highly successful practice as a lawyer and dealt with many cases of Irish tenants against English landlords.
In 1794 O’Connell enrolled in Lincoln’s Inn, London and two years later transferred to the King’s Inn, Dublin. While in London, O’Connell became vehemently interested in politics. He read plenty of books from different movement authors and was influenced by the ideas of radicals such as Tom Paine, Jeremy Bentham and William Godwin. By the time he qualified as a lawyer in 1798 O’Connell was fully committed to religious tolerance, freedom of conscience, democracy and the separation of Church and State.
On the 11th of July 1846, O’Connell presented his “Peace Resolutions” demanding the absolute renunciation of the use of physical force in pursuit of national aims by all members of his Loyal National Repeal Association. The Young Ireland faction, a group of the most dynamic and influential Repealers of the younger generation, were unwilling to accept this principle unconditionally.
As a result, under immense pressure from O’Connell and his supporters, Young Ireland walked out of Conciliation Hall on the 28th of July and broke with the O’Connell-led Repeal Association for good. At that moment, the unity that the Irish National Movement had enjoyed for years under Daniel O’Connell’s leadership was broken, and physical force nationalism came to compete with the constitutional methods he had championed for so long.
In 1845 the famine struck Ireland and the Young Ireland members of O’Connell’s party began to advocate revolutionary doctrines that he had always opposed. Their arguments in favour of violent opposition to British rule led to an open split in Irish ranks in 1846. O’Connell was distressed by this disaffection among the Irish. Although suffering from ill health, he set off for Rome in January 1847 but died in Genoa on the 15th of May of the same year.
Named in honour of Daniel O’Connell in 1924, O’Connell Street features a statue of the Liberator at the lower end of the street, beside O’Connell bridge, as well as Dublin’s iconic spire and the GPO; one of the most significant locations in the 1916 Rising. Why not take our virtual tour of the street while you’re here!
Colonel Richard “Humanity Dick” Martin, born on the 15th of January 1754 in Ballynahinch, County Galway, was an Irish politician and animal rights, activist.
Martin was born the only son of Robert Martin Fitz Anthony of Birchall, County Galway, and Bridget Barnwall, a daughter of Baron Trimlestown. Martin was raised at Dangan House, situated on the Corrib River, four miles upriver from the town of Galway.
He studied at Harrow and then after some tutelage for exams to gain admission at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was admitted a gentleman-commoner at Trinity on 4 March 1773. Martin did not graduate with a degree but studied for admission to the bar and was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn on 1 February 1776. He served as a lawyer in Ireland and became High Sheriff of Galway in 1782.
His father wanted him to become a member of parliament. So, subsequently, he was elected to represent County Galway in Parliament in 1800. He was very popular with people in Galway and was well known as a duellist and as a witty speaker in the Houses of Parliament. He also campaigned for Catholic Emancipation.
After the election of 1826, Martin was deprived of his parliamentary seat because of a petition which accused him of illegal intimidation during the election. He had to flee into hasty exile to Boulogne, France, because he could no longer enjoy a parliamentary immunity to arrest for debt. He died there peacefully in the presence of his second wife and their three daughters on the 6th of January 1834.
Martin is best remembered for his work to outlaw cruelty to animals. He earned the nickname “Humanity Dick” because of his compassion for the plight of animals at that time. You can learn more about his fascinating life by reading Shevawn Lynann’s 1989 biography Humanity Dick Martin “King of Connemara”
Charles Stewart Parnell
Another famous Irish politician that you should know about is Charles Stewart Parnell born in County Wicklow on 27th June 1846. Parnell was an Irish nationalist politician who led the fight for Irish Home Rule during the 1880s. He studied at Cambridge University and in 1875 he was elected to parliament as a member of the Home Rule League.
Parnell was winning a lot of influence during that time for his balancing of constitutional, radical and economic issues. He became an active voice when it came to Irish land laws. As he believed their reform would be a good step toward achieving home rule.
Charles Stewart Parnell was then elected as the president of the National Land League in 1879. After his election, he took a trip over to America to try and get funds and support for land reform back in Ireland. In 1880 election Parnell supported Liberal leader Willaim Gladstone. But when Gladstone’s Land Act of 1881 didn’t meet up with expectations, Parnell sided with the opposition. This then led him to become the leader of the Irish nationalist movement.
During his leadership, he was encouraging people to boycott as a way of influencing landlords and land agents. But he was sent to jail for this and the Land league was overpowered. While he was serving time at Kilmainham prison he called for Irish peasants to stop paying rent.
In 1886, he joined forces with the Liberals to help defeat Lord Salisbury’s Conservative government. William Gladstone had then become the prime minister and created the first Irish Home Rule Bill. At the time Parnell thought there were flaws in his bill but still agreed to vote for it. The bill ended up dividing the Liberal party and wasn’t accepted in the House of Commons. The new government with Gladstone also started to fall apart not long after this.
In 1887, Times had published a letter that is alleged to show Charles Parnell’s signature that executed murders in Phoenix Park. But there was proof showing that the letter and his signature was forged which turned Parnell into a hero in the eyes of English liberals. He was giving a standing ovation in the House of Commons, this was a massive highlight in a career.
Born to a wealthy family in Lissadell Co. Sligo in 1868, Constance Markievicz is known for her active role in the 1916 Easter Rising and the struggle for freedom there after. Countess Markievicz used her wealth and privilege to fight for freedom for all.
After a happy and unremarkable childhood, Constance moved to London with her parents expectations that she would find a potential husband. Constance defied societies expectations of her by instead persuading her father to rent her a studio apartment so she could attend Slade School of Art. She then moved to Paris to further her education, where she would meet her future husband, Casimir Dunin-Markievicz. Their only child, Maeve Allys, was born in Lissadell in 1901.
It seemed as though a life of painting and pleasure was in store for the Countess, but she decided to become involved in politics. She established and ran a soup kitchen to help the poorest people in the city. Constance was inspired by James Connolly, who actively worked with her, at a time when women were not allowed or expected to work after marriage.
Constance became a commissioned officer in the Irish Citizen Army, and was involved in the planning of the 1916 Rising. She was initially sentenced to death, but because she was a woman this was changed to life imprisonment.
Constance Markievicz was the first woman to be elected to Westminster Parliament in London, but she refused to take her seat. She was also the first woman to be elected to and serve in Dáil Eireann. She served with distinction as the first female minister in a modern democracy, having been appointed in 1919.
On May 16th 1926 Countess Markievicz found Fianna Fáil alongside Eamon de Valera, Seán Lemass, Gerry Boland and Frank Aiken. Three hundred thousand people attended Countess Markievicz funeral in 1927, marking their respects for someone who had helped to change Ireland.
A woman that has often been overlooked in different accounts of Irish history is Kathleen Lynn. She was an activist, political and medical professional. Her work in each of these areas has been hugely beneficial and helped shape the events of a difficult period of time in Ireland. Kathleen Lynn graduated as a doctor from the Royal University of Ireland in 1899, becoming an active suffragette, labour activist and joined the Irish Citizen Army. She was also a chief medical officer during the 1916 Easter Rising.
Her role during the Easter Rising put her and many other Prominent figures in Kilmainham Gaol. When Lynn was release, she founded a hospital for infants at Saint Ultans after she was affected by the poverty and poor quality of life in Dublin at the time. This was the only hospital in Ireland that allowed women to work. Due to Lynn’s hard work and commitment the hospital grow quickly and by 1937 it was the primary vaccination centre in Ireland. It also provided different medical and educational facilities for mothers and children. She played an important role in shaping Ireland for the better.
Famous Irish Politicians and Presidents
There are many famous Irish people in history that have shaped not only our Emerald Isle, but the world. In this section you will find some of the most influential Irish politicians and presidents.
The first president of Ireland, inaugurated in 1938. Hyde was born in Castlerea Co. Roscommon and the Roscommon GAA team play in Dr. Hyde Park stadium named after the president.
Hyde was a co-founder and first president (1893-1915) of the Gaelic League which aimed to act as a revival of the Irish language.
The first female president of Ireland, and an avid UN human rights activist, Mary Robinson is undeniably one of the most important Irish figures of our time. Born in Ballina Co. Mayo, Mary was a barrister by profession and was appointed as a professor of Criminal Law in Trinity College Dublin. Mary and her husband John set up the Irish Centre for European Law in 1998.
Mary Theresa Wilford Robinson is an Irish independent politician who served as the 7th president of Ireland, inaugurated over 40 years ago back in 1990. She was also the first women to hold this office. She has often been highly praised for her time as the president, helping to transform Ireland into a more modern country and revitalising the political office for the better.
Robinson left her Irish presidency a few months before her term ended in 1997 to pursue humans rights work with the United Nations, becoming the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Working for the United Nations, Mary was an important figure that constantly changed perception and fought for human’s rights all over the world. Through her work, she has obtained many awards that recognise her contribution to society and her amazing human rights efforts.
The Second female president of Ireland, Mary McAleese was elected as the 8th President of Ireland 1997, and served for two consecutive terms, fourteen years altogether.
Mary trained as a barrister and was a former Professor of Law. Mary was the first Irish president to come from Northern Ireland. She was also an experienced broadcaster and journalist of current affairs having worked at Radio Telefís Éireann (RTÉ).
The theme of Mary’s presidential campaign was ‘building bridges’, a moving campaign considering she grew up during ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.
Michael D. Higgins
Michael D. Higgins is the current president of Ireland, the 9th president currently serving his second term of 7 years at the time of writing.
Before his presidency Michael D. Higgins was a member of Dáil Éireann which is the Oireachtas , or parliament of the Republic of Ireland. He was also a member of the Seanad Éireann, the Irish Senate for 9 years.
Higgins was Ireland’s first Cabinet minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and promoted the Irish langauge throughout his career.
Born in Limerick and raised in Clare, Michael studied in University College Galway, the University of Manchester, and Indiana University. Before his further education he worked in a factory and as a clerk, he wa actually the first in his family to obtain a third level education. Michael D has also served as Lord Mayor of Galway on two occasions and is an honorary professor at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Michael and his wife Sabina are also activists and promoters of the arts and literature.
John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic president of the United States, a descendant of County Wexford and an icon for the Irish American community. Patrick Kennedy, the great-grandfather of John, Bobby and Teddy (his two brothers), left Ireland in 1848 to escape the grinding poverty and make a life for himself.
Probably the best international trip of Kennedy’s presidency was to Ireland in 1963 (the year of his assassination) where he was greeted by nearly the entire population of the country as a son returning home. He stayed at the Cavendish’s Lismore Castle. His visit had a side mission: to allow him to track down his relatives in Dunganstown. When he found the farmhouse, so the story goes, he held his hand out and introduced himself as “your cousin John from Massachusetts.”
Also, Kennedy took his time in Ireland to speak at a ceremony in New Ross (also in Wexford) and pay tribute to his Irish heritage. “When my great-grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all his grandchildren have valued that inheritance.”
JFK was an inspiration to many Irish immigrants. When the Irish first arrived in the UK and America they faced hostility and discrimination. Irish diaspora was met with anti-Irish sentiments such as “no Irish need apply”. Irish immigrants often entered the workforce at the bottom of the ladder and it took generations to transcend the ranks of society. JFK was living proof that the American Dream was possible for Irish descendants to achieve.
Famous Irish People: Scientists & Inventors:
About 150 years ago, a scientist named John Tyndall carried out a series of experiments based on multiple theories of physics and matter that is still fundamental to science today. Some of these experiments were related to magnetism and led to his greatest impact in the field. what he described as radiant heat, more widely known nowadays as infrared radiation.
Tyndall knew that the air is made up of many different gases. One of these different gases would also have different properties in relation to radiant heat. After countless experiments, he reached the first scientific explanation for why the sky is blue, and crucially, was the first to realise the greenhouse warming effect of certain gases.
Thanks to Tyndall and his efforts, we now know what gases cause global warming. He aided the ways to challenge climate change and many climate change institutions were named after him.
Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton, Ireland’s only Nobel Prize-winning scientist, was born in County Waterford in 1903. From an early age, he excelled in math and science, and he won a scholarship to study at the famous Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge in 1927. In Cambridge, the task set to Walton and his research partner, Sir John Cockcroft, was to split the nucleus of an atom, using artificially-accelerated protons (a feat that had never been done before).
Together, they set about building a device which could fire particles small enough to break apart the nuclei of atoms. They designed and built what’s today called a Cockcroft-Walton Circuit which could deliver a massive charge of 7000 kilovolts. Using this apparatus, they’ve achieved their breakthrough on the 14th of April 1932: breaking apart the nucleus of a lithium atom. The experiment showed that a huge energy release could be obtained from a nuclear reaction.
Walton turned down an invitation to work on the US military’s Manhattan project to build the first nuclear bomb. In 1951, he and Cockcroft were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their work. Although he retired in 1974 and moved back to Belfast, Ernest remained closely associated with the physics department at Trinity College Dublin and often popped in for a cup of tea and a chat with his former colleagues right up until his final illness. Just before his death, he presented the treasured Nobel Prize citation and the medal he had won for his work to split the atom to Trinity, in a clear indication of just how much esteem and affection he had for the institution.
John Joly was an Irish geologist, physicist, engineer, inventor, and lecturer at the University of Dublin. Born in 1857, Joly is known for his development of radiotherapy in the treatment of cancer
John studied at Trinity College, Dublin before he became a professor of geology and mineralogy.
Joly also developed uranium-thorium dating, a technique used to more accurately estimate the age of a geological period, based on looking at radioactive elements present in minerals.
John invented a photometer, a device for measuring light frequencies, and a thermometer a device to measure heat energy
Joly also invented a type of colour photography, known as the Joly colour screen. He was truly a man whose love of sciences is evident in the many fields he excelled in.
In 1973 a crater on Mars was named after Joly in his honour.
The man behind our favourite pint of stout deserves a spot on our list. Arthur Guinness founded the Guinness brewery at St. James’s Gate in 1755, the Guinness storehouse is a really popular tourist destination in Dublin.
Guinness originally founded a brewery in Leixlip Co. Kildare, before setting up in Dublin after buying property that became abundantly available during the financial crisis that took place in the mid 1700’s.
Originally Guinness produced ale, but this ceased with the introduction of porter we all know today.
Guinness was a devout Protestant, and was supportive of Catholic rights apart from the Irish Rebellion of 1798. He did not discriminate upon Catholic people and actively hired them to work in his storehouse, actively advocating for a fair and equal society. He and his wife had 10 children together, with his son Arthur Guinness II inheriting the brewery after his father’s death.
Famous Irish People: Actors
Some of the most famous people from Ireland are the actors we see on the big screen. From James Bond to Professor Dumbledore, some of our favorite fictional characters have been played by the Irish.
Liam Neeson is an Irish actor who was born on the 7th of June 1952 in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland and educated at Saint Patrick’s College, Ballymena Technical College and Queen’s University Belfast. He moved to Dublin after university to further his acting career, joining the renowned Abbey Theatre. He was married to fellow actress Natasha Richardson who tragically died in 2009 in a skiing accident and currently lives in New York with their two sons.
In his 20s he was still making his mark in Irish regional theatre; by his 30s he had progressed to small parts in TV mini-series. It wasn’t until he was 41, when his Academy Award-nominated role in Schindler’s List (1993) put him firmly on the map, that he felt he had truly arrived.
Other notable movies and TV shows that Neeson has appeared in include Rob Roy (1995), Michael Collins (1996), Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999), Love Actually (2003), Kinsey (2004), The Simpsons (2005), Batman Begins (2005) The Chronicles of Narnia (2005), Taken (2008) Ponyo (2008), The Clash of the Titans (2010), The A-Team (2010), Taken 2 (2012) The Lego Movie (2014), A Million Ways To Die In The West (2014), Taken 3 (2014), Atlanta (2022) and Derry Girls (2022) …. What an impressive list of iconic movies and shows!
Liam Neeson has made over 100 movies so far in his career, contributing so much to modern cinema and popculture.
Saoirse Ronan is another one of Ireland’s great exports! She was born in Bronx district of New York but moved to Ireland when she was a young child with her Irish parents. She has gone on to become one of the most successful Irish actors, starring in huge films from ‘Atonement’ at only 12 years old!
She initially starred in roles such as ‘The Lovely Bones’ and ‘Hanna’ as well as a supporting role in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’
She has starred in other popular movies such as Brooklyn, Lady Bird and the Lovely Bones.
Ronan’s career skyrocketed even further after the release of Brooklyn (2015) a moving and relatable story about an Irish emigrant who arrives in New York, homesick and lonely in the 1950’s. Other major roles include Ladybird, the titular character of Greta Gerwig’s film of the same name. It is a coming of age story about a high school senior preparing for the the next chapter of her life.
Saoirse appears in ‘Loving Vincent’ as Marguerite Gauchet, a revolutionary movie in terms of it’s animation, Loving Vincent is a biographical drama that revolves around the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh, the man who painted the instantl recognisbale ‘Starry Starry Night’. Each frame in this movie is actually a hand painted piece of art, in Van Gogh’s recognisable style, a true gem of modern cinema!
Saoirse also starred alongside Margot Robbie as Mary Stuart in ‘Marry Queen of Scotts’ (2018) as well as Jo March joining an ensemble cast in Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ (2019)
Saoirse also starred in Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ music video, a fun video that highlights some of the best of Galway! She also starred in Hozier’s ‘Cherry Wine’ music video; a truly moving and emotional performance.
Saoirse has over 25 movies under her belt and only being 28 years of age, there is so much more to see from this brilliant actress and all round lovely woman.
The Cork born actor has one of the most impressive filmography’s of any top actor in Hollywood.
From his early beginnings as the lead singer in his band ‘The Sons of Mr. Green Genes, Murphy transitioned into the world of acting with one of his earlier break-out works including starring as Jim in the Zombie-horror ’28 days later’ (2002)
Cillian Murphy has never shied away from roles, starring as Kitten or Patricia in the comedy drama ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ (2005), a film adaption of the novel of the same name which focuses on a transgender foundling searching for love and her long lost mother; a movie which earned him a Golden Globe award for best actor in a musical or comedy.
Murphy is a recurring actor in Nolan’s cinematic masterpieces,. He appears in the dark knight trilogy (2005,2008,2012) as Dr. Johnaton Crane, or Scarecrow as he is more infamously known. Scarecrow is a corrupt psychologist who instead of trying to cure his patients, harnesses and amplifies their fears using a fear toxin, a powerful hallucinogenic.
Other Nolan movies that Cillian has starred in are Inception (2010); a sci-fi action film that can only be described as a dream-heist, Dunkirk (2017); a highly acclaimed WWII drama, and the upcoming film Oppenheimer which will release in 2023.
Other movies in which Murphy features are ‘Red Eye’ (2005) ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ (2006) ‘Sunshine’ (2007) ‘In Time’ (2011) and ‘ A Quiet Place part II’ (2020)
We would be remissed not to mention Tommy Shelby, the protagonist of Peaky Blinders (2013-2022). One of Murphy’s most recognisable portrayals, and one of the most beloved characters in recent pop-culture, Peaky Blinders explores the life and tribulations of the Shelby family.
Make no mistake, Peaky Blinders is a crime drama based loosely on a real life ruthless gang in Birmingham, but Murphy portrays his character as a multi-faceted, three dimensional person. Tommy is not just a gang leader, he is a war hero; the patriarchal figurehead of his family and an intelligent businessman. He is a man proud of his Birmingham and Romani roots, yet open to change if it will improve the lives of his family. Nonetheless he can also be cold and calculating; vindictive yet kind. Despite his flaws, we as the audience root for him; he is so much more than a broken man or a downright villain.
One quality that we can all admire about Cillian Murphy is his confidence to choose roles that are vastly different from each other, he is not afraid to break the mould. Even accepting the role as Tommy Shelby – a time when many actors on the big screen would shy away from TV roles- was a bold move, which proved to be the right one as alongside the arrival of streaming service, TV series saw a resurgence in their popularity, with shows like Peaky Blinders leading the way.
Numerous awards and accolades to his name to support our claims that Murphy is one of the best Irish Actors of all time!
Pierce Brosnan is a multi-award-winning Irish actor and film producer. He was raised Catholic and served as an altar boy. He made his film debut as Edward O’Grady in the 1979 TV movie Murphy’s Stroke. After his father abandoned his family, he was raised by his grandparents. After their deaths, he moved in with his aunt and uncle, who sent him to live in a boarding house.
Pierce Brosnan was the first ─ and, thus far, only ─ Irish actor to play the role of British secret agent James Bond. He played the classic spy in four films from the 90s up until the early 2000s when Daniel Craig took up the mantle.
From Golden Eye to Robinson Crusoe and Mamma Mia!, Brosnans acting range is unquestionable.
In recognition of a rich and extensive career in front of the camera and behind the scenes as a producer, Brosnan has received the honorary award European Achievement in World Cinema.
Did you know? Pierce Brosnan was in serious talks to play James Bond after Roger More, his current contract working on the drama series Remington Steele, appeared to be all but done due to the shows low ratings. However the hype around Brosnan becoming 007 led to a significant increase in viewership of the show and a renewed season. As Brosnan was obliged to fulfil his contract he was no longer eligible for the role of James Bond, and Timothy Dalton took over. Thankfully the stars aligned for Brosnan and he still ended up playing our favourite British spy. You can learn more about Brosnans journey to Bond in the video below.
We couldn’t pick just one member of the Gleeson family! Brendan Gleeson, is the father of Domhnall and Brian and has stared in the Harry Potter series , Michael Collins, 28 days later, Caca Milís, and Paddington 2 to name a few.
Brendan Gleeson married Mary Wheldon in 1982 in Dublin, where they live and raised their four children. Two of their children, Domhnall and Brian have followed in their fathers’ footsteps.
Domhnall Gleeson also starred in the Harry Potter series alongside his father, as well as Frank, About Time, Black Mirror, Brooklyn, Ex Machina, The Revenant, Peter Rabbit.
Brian Gleeson has starred in Snow White and The Huntsman, Love-Hate and Peaky Blinders.
Domhnall and Brian have went on to create and star in the sit-com Frank of Ireland, in which their father Brendan also features.
Dublin born Actor Colin Farrell actually comes from a family of athletes, his father and brother played professionally with Shamrock Rovers, a famous Irish soccer club. Farrell actually auditioned for Boyzone, a well known Irish boyband who had many hit songs, but he didn’t make the cut. It seems one way or another – be it as a soccer player, singer or actor- Farrell was destined for fame!
Colin has starred in many roles such as Alexander (2004), Miami Vice (2006), Horrible Bosses (2011) sci-fi action Total Recall (2012), Saving Mr. Banks (2013), The Lobster (2015), Fantastic Beasts (2016), The Beguiled (2017) and the Killing of a Sacred Deer (2019)
Colin has recently starred as notorious Batman villain The Penguin in ‘The Batman’ (2022), with rumours that he will be continuing his performance of the iconic character in a spin off HBO series focusing on the Penguin himself.
Irish-German Actor Michael Fassbender was born in Germany, moving to Killarney with his family at two years of age.
Fassbender has been featured in many movies from 300 (2006), an epic historical drama about Spartan war, to Hunger (2008), portraying Bobby Sands an Irish republican who went on hunger strike, to Tarantino’s WWII drama Inglourious Basterds (2009).
He has also featured in Shame (2011), 12 years a Slave (2013), Assassins Creed (2014), Macbeth (2015), Steve Jobs (2015), and the Alien franchise.
Fassbender is a prominent character in the superhero genre, playing a younger version of Ian McKellen’s Magneto in 4 movies in the X-men franchise, and is often seen as one of the constant highlights of a movie saga that has many ups and downs.
3 time Oscar winner, and star of ‘Lincoln’ (2012), Daniel Day-Lewis holds both an Irish and English citizenship.
Day-Lewis is considered one of the greatest actors of all time, partly due to his method acting approach method acting involves fully embracing a role, allowing the role to become your life, not just a job or a state of mind when you are on set.
Day-Lewis did extensive research into all of his roles, from living onset in the Crucible (1996) to immerse himself in the replica 1600’s Massachusetts village, a place that had no running water or electricity, even building his own house, to Lincoln (2012). Day-Lewis didn’t break character for months before up until the last day of shooting
Day-Lewis retired from acting in 2017, other notable appearances include, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), My Left Foot (1989), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), The Boxer (1997) and Gangs of New York (2002)
Richard Harris was an Irish actor and singer born in Limerick in 1930.
Harris starred as ‘The Bull McCabe’ in the film adaption of Jim Sheridan’s ‘The Field’ (1990), one of the most famous Irish movies of all time, for which he received a Golden Globe for best actor. He also received a Golden Globe for his portrayal of King Arthur in Camelot (1982)
Harris starred alongside Gerald Butler and Joaquin Phoenix, as Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator (2000)
Harris became famous with younger generations, starring as Professor Dumbledore in the first two films of the Harry potter series; Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (2001), and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). Unfortunately Harris passed away in 2003, fellow Irish actor Michael Gambon took over the role for the rest of the series.
Maureen O’ Hara
Another famous Irish woman is Maureen O’Hare who was born in Dublin on 12th August 1920. She is an Irish- American actress and singer who was famously known for playing fierce and passionate roles often in westerns and adventure films. On many occasions during her career, she worked with director John Ford and appeared on screen a few time with friend John Wayne.
Maureen O’Hara trained in theatre and acting since she was very young. Attending the Rathmines Theatre Company from 10 years old and the Abbey Theatre from 14 in Dublin. She was offered a screen test but it didn’t go well although Charles Laughton saw potential in her and arrange for her to appear in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Jamaica Inn in 1939. The same year she decided to move to Hollywood to pursue her acting career full time and appeared in the production of the Hunchback of Norte Dame.
From then onwards she continued to get great roles and obtain success in the film industry, often referred to as the “Queen of Technicolour”. Maureen O’Hara is best known for her role in the iconic movie ‘The Quiet Man in 1952. Other great roles that she appeared in Included How Green Way My Valley (1941), The Black Swan (1942) and The Spanish Main (1945).
Ones to Watch:
At only 29 years of age at the time of writing, Keoghan has already amassed an impressive filmography, including appearances in Love-Hate (2013), The Killing of A Sacred Deer (2017), Black 47′ (2018) and Chernobyl (2019).
Keoghan has also entered the much-in-demand superhero genre starring in the Eternals (2021) a Marvel Cinematic Universe production praised for its visuals and diversity. He also made a cameo appearance in Matt Reeves’s The Batman (2022) as one of the most iconic villains of all time, the Joker. Other critically acclaimed actors such as Jack Nicholson, and the late Heath Ledger have been praised for their iconic portrayals of the ‘clown prince of crime’, so we are hoping that Keoghan will get to put his spin on the role in a future sequel.
After starring in the hit series Derry Girls (2018-2022), Galway native Nicola Coughlan has become a household name. The show produced by Channel 4 has become an instant success with worldwide popularity, and followings a group of teenagers navigating their way through 1990’s Belfast in a hilarious and moving sit-com.
Coughlan appeared in Harlots in 2018, as well as performing onstage in the West End in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. In 2020 Nicola appeared in Netflix’s Bridgerton, a period drama based on Julia Quinn’s book series set in London in the 1810’s.
We can’t help but feel that the success these two stars have experienced is only the beginning!
Other Notable Mentions:
Andrew Scott, Sr Kenneth Branagh, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Robert Sheehan, Jamie Dornan, Jack Gleeson, Paul Mescel, Evanna Lynch, Ruth Negga, Fionnula Flanagan, Fiona Shaw, Brenda Fricker, Aiden Gillen, Colm Meaney, David Kelly, Michael Gambon, Devon Murray and Johnaton Rhys Meyers
We really struggled to narrow down this list, let alone our featured actors – it just goes to show how much talent is created on our little island! Have we forgot anyone? let us know in the comments below
Famous Irish People: Authors, Poets and Playwrights
On October 16th 1854, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wils Wilde was born in Ireland to a modal family. His father was a knighted doctor and philanthropist, and his mother was a renowned poet. As he was growing up in an environment where he was taught many intellectual studies, Wilde became a phenomenal student. He specialized in Greek and Roman studies and landed the top of his class for a few years and won some scholarships and awards.
He eventually graduated from Oxford in 1878 and in 1881 he released his first poetry collection. His main purpose for a while was lecturing. He toured America and Western Europe talking about asceticism and interior design. During one lecture he met Constance Lloyd who he married in 1884 and with whom he had two sons.
In 1888, Wilde took up the post as editor in chief for The Lady’s World magazine because he needed a more grounded income to support his family. However, Wilde was not the type for a desk job, he was let go the following year after not showing up for work. But have no fear, this signalled the true start of his career. The next few years proved to be his most fruitful.
He reached the peak of his fame as a London author and playwright. He wrote many successful novels like The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest. In 1891, Wilde was introduced to Sir Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas and he fell in love with him. Wilde was then arrested for incenting debauchery after he became very outspoken about his homosexual life. He was sentenced to two years of hard labour and was forced to sell his home, his furniture, and the rights to sell his works to pay back his creditors. By the time he was released, he was exhausted and flat broke.
The only person who stayed by Wilde’s side was perhaps Robbie Ross. He gave Wilde a home after prison, was with him when he died three years later, and made sure to keep Wilde’s legacy alive by buying back the rights to all of his work. Therefore, Wilde’s legacy was kept alive and now his literary works are taught all over the world.
William Butler Yeats
WB Yeats is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He belonged to the Protestant Anglo-Irish minority that controlled the economic, political, and social life of Ireland since the end of the 17th century. Yeats maintained his cultural roots, featuring Irish legends and heroes in many of his poems and plays.
1885 was an important year in Yeats’s early adult life, marking the first publication in the Dublin University review of his poetry. It was also the year when he met John O’Leary, a famous patriot who had returned to Ireland after totalling 20 years of imprisonment for nationalistic activities. O’Leary had a keen enthusiasm for Irish books, music, and ballads, and he encouraged young writers to adopt Irish subjects.
Yeats was compelled to accompany his family in moving to London in 1886. He continued to devote himself to writing Irish subjects with Irish characters: Poems, plays, novels… you name it. However, the most important event in his life took place in 1889. Yeats met the woman who became the greatest single influence on his life and poetry, Maud Gonne. She was Yeats’s first and deepest love. She admired his poetry but rejected his repeated offers of marriage, choosing instead to marry Major John MacBride. Gonne came to represent for Yeats the ideal of feminine beauty—she appears as Helen of Troy in several of his poems—but a beauty disfigured and wasted by what Yeats considered an unsuitable marriage and her involvement in a hopeless political cause, Irish independence.
Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923 “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”. Ireland had newly become independent at that time and he was the first Irish man to be honoured with the coveted prize. Yeats died on January 28, 1939, at the age of 73, at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour, in Menton, France.
Author of the much loved Chronicles of Narnia series, CS Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898.
While he held academic positions at Oxford University, where he taught alongside fellow author J. R. R. Tolkien, and Cambridge University, CS Lewis is best known for his literary fictional works, including The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy.
C.S. Lewis’s legacy is so strong that a park has been named in his honour, featuring iconic characters from the world of Narnia. For those who venture up north, CS Lewis Square is located in Belfast; Northern Ireland’s capital. This unique public space featuring iconic characters from the world of Narnia, including Aslan the Lion, the White Witch, and Mr Tumnus. Visitors can also follow the famous Chronicles of Narnia Trail!
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw, the third and youngest child, and only son, of George Carr Shaw and Lucinda Gurly, was born on 26th July 1856 at 3 Upper Synge Street, Dublin. Shaw’s father, a corn merchant, was also an alcoholic and therefore there was very little money to spend on Shaw’s education. Shaw went to local schools but never went to university and was largely self-taught.
Shaw hoped to become a writer and during the next seven years wrote five unsuccessful novels. He wrote several plays with political themes during this period. Like many socialists, George Bernard Shaw opposed Britain’s involvement in the First World War. He created a great deal of controversy with his provocative pamphlet, Common Sense About the War, which appeared on 14th November 1914 as a supplement to the New Statesman.
It sold more than 75,000 copies before the end of the year and as a result, he became a well-known international figure. However, given the patriotic mood of the country, his pamphlet created a great deal of hostility. Some of his anti-war speeches were banned from the newspapers, and he was expelled from the Dramatists’ Club.
Shaw’s status as a playwright continued to grow after the war and plays such as Heartbreak House, Back to Methuselah, Saint Joan, The Apple Cart, and Too True to be Good were favourably received by the critics and 1925 he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize in Literature and an Oscar in 1938, the latter for the adaptation of his play Pygmalion to the cinema. Pygmalion was adapted into the famous musical film My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle.
Another famous Irish writer and one of the most significant writers in the world is James Joyce. He was born on the 2nd of February 1882 in Dublin, Ireland, he was the oldest of ten siblings. His unique style of writing help to revolutionise fiction writing in the early 20th century.
He is regarded as one of the most influential and important authors of the 20th century. Joyce, as an Irish author, was deeply impacted by his surroundings and Irish upbringing. Which is quite evident through the settings and subject matter of his novels.
One of his best pieces of work is thought to be the short story ‘The Dead’. This is found in his Dubliners short- story collection written in 1914. It has even been considered a ‘masterpiece of modern fiction’. Director John Huston then turned the story into a film years later, which was publicly praised.
Every year on the 16th of June Bloomsday is celebrated. Bloomsday is a celebration of the life of acclaimed writer James Joyce. The event is held every year on 16 June, the day his novel Ulysses takes place in 1904, which also happens to be the date of his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle
People dress up as characters from the book and re-enact scenes in their real life location, more than 100 years after its realise. Ulysses tells the story of the eponymous Greek leader, who after defeating the Trojans in a 10 year home begins his journey home to his wife and son. Little does he know that the journey itself will ben another harrowing adventure .Each of the eighteen chapters of the book are written in different styles to the last. Joyce combines references to Dublin life, Irish history, Shakespearian work, as well as that of Aristotle and Dante, in his novel.
Bram Stoker, an Irish Gothic writer is responsible for creating one of the most famous monsters of all time. Abraham Stoker was born in Dublin in 1849 who wrote ‘Dracula’ in 1987, undoubtedly one of the most iconic characters in pop culture and literature.
A man of many talents, Bram attended Trinity College, Dublin where he excelled in sports, was the auditor of the historical society and president of the historical society. He also became acquainted with Oscar Wilde at this time.
A theatre fanatic and gifted writer, it is no surprise that Bram worked as a theatre critic. He would move to London and become the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, working with Sir Henry Iving, a famous stage actor and the supposed inspiration for Dracula. This gave him the opportunity to travel around the world, even visiting Theodore Roosevelt in the White House.
Dracula has appeared in many iterations throughout the years, from Hollywood movies and television, to book sequels, prequels and just about everything else!
Born in Dublin on the 8th of May 1958, Roddy Doyle would go on to be considered one of the best authors in Ireland. Dole attended Trinity College, Dublin, becoming an English and Geography teacher.
Doyle married Belinda Moller, who is actually the grand daughter of Irish President Erskine Childers, the fourth president of Ireland. They have 3 children.
Doyle followed his passion, and became a full-time writer in 1993. He wrote the ‘Barrytown Trilogy’ which comprised of ‘The Commitments’, ‘The Snapper’, and the ‘Van’. These books would be adapted into much acclaimed films.
The Barrytown trilogy are just a few of many loved Roddy Doyle’s novels, including ‘Paddy Clarke: Ha Ha Ha’, ‘The Woman Who Walked Into Doors’, and ‘A Star Called Henry’. Doyles stories evoke a plethora of emotions, as he includes many genres in his stories, from comedy, to romance, to drama; and more often than not, a mix of all of them.
Ceceila Ahern is a contemporary Irish author whose novels have reached international success.
After completing a degree in journalism and Media Communications Ceceila started writing her first novels. At just 21 years of age, her debut novel PS I Love You was released in January 2004, followed by Where Rainbows End (adapted into Love, Rosie) Both novels were adapted into hit films starring Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler, and Lily Colins and Sam Clafin.
Ceceila has published a novel every year since then, her books have sold 25 million copies in over 40 countries, in 30 languages.
Ceceila enjoys writing about the transitional periods of life, as it is often in that time we face our toughest challenges. She enjoys writing about character s who find themselves struggling as we get to follow their journey to overcoming their issues and becoming a better version of themselves.
Famous Irish People: Musicians
Luke Kelly / The Dubliners
Both a solo artist and founder of The Dubliners Luke Kelly is an icon in Irish music. Luke’s career was cut short by his death at age 44
Kelly was a balladeer and played the banjo. Other notable members of The Dubliners include Ronnie Drew, Barney MacKenna, Ciarán Bourke, John Sheahan, Bobby Lynch, Jim McCann, Seán Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Paddy Reilly, Patsy Watchorn.
Kelly was known not only for his distinctive singing style, but also by his political engagement and activism. Kelly’s versions of songs such as ‘The Black Velvet Band’ and ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ are often seen as the definitive versions.
Many statues of Luke Kelly can be seen around Dublin city.
Hits include: Seven Drunken Nights, Black Velvet Band, Raglan Roads & The Rare Auld Times.
Bono / U2
In the year 1976, aspiring drummer Larry Mullen pinned an ad on the notice board at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, looking for people to join a band. He’d just acquired his first drum kit at the time and wanted someone to practice with. Paul Hewson (Bono), Dave Evans (The Edge), Dik Evans, Ivan McCormick and Adam Clayton joined up with him. The Larry Mullen Band’s first practice sessions took place in Larry’s kitchen, where it soon became apparent that despite their name, Bono was really the one in charge.
Their name had changed to ‘The Hype’ before the band eventually settled on U2. They chose that name because they considered it somewhat vague and liked the fact that it could be interpreted in several different ways.
U2 is now considered one of only a few bands to achieve consistent commercial and critical success across three decades. It has charted success on its own terms on both the artistic and business sides of the music industry.
Their 2000 record, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, not only sold a staggering 12 million copies, but it gave the band a renewed relevance in the wake of 9/11 when songs like “Walk On” came to symbolize an America figuring out how to pick up the pieces. Other songs like the anthemic “One” had always found a universal relevance, but this was a reminder of exactly why U2 was so popular: It united the types of people who would normally never agree on liking anything.
It’s difficult to argue that Bono is one of the most famous Irishmen in history, or that U2 is one of the most famous bands in the music industry.
Hits include: With or Without You, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For & Beautiful Day.
George Ivan “Van” Morrison was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on August 31, 1945. Morrison began listening to song records around age two or three, and when he was 15, he was completely hooked on the idea of becoming a singer, and he dropped out of school to pursue a musical career.
His first full-time effort was with a local band called the Monarchs. The band toured Europe, often playing military bases, but by the time he was 19, Morrison had left the Monarchs behind to open a Belfast R&B club and form a new band called Them. The band made big sales and even went on tour, but Morrison decided that it was time to depart from the band and go solo.
Van Morrison’s reputation speaks for itself, both musically and with the multiple honours that have been bestowed upon the Irish singer/songwriter. He’s a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and the winner of multiple Grammy Awards. In 2016, he received a knighthood from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace for services to the music industry and tourism in Northern Ireland. The artist was introduced as Sir Ivan Morrison as he stepped forward to be dubbed a knight.
Hits include: Moondance, Brown Eyed Girl and Days Like This
A singer who was hugely inspired by Van Morrison, and even went on to cover Days Like This on the Late Late Show is Dermot Kennedy.
From Busking on the streets of Dublin in his early days to travelling the world and selling out arenas Dermots success can only be attributed to his artistry. Not only a quality vocalist, but also a talented musican and superb lyricist, Kennedys songs often feel like poetry.
Initially a singer in the Band Shadow and Dust, Dermot gained popularity as a solo artist after the releaseof his 2017 EP ‘Doves and Ravens’. His album reached Without Fear reached #1 in the Irish and UK charts, and has been streamed online over 1.5 Billion times.
Dermot was nominated in the ‘Best International Male’ category at the BRIT awards in 2020. in the same year he hosted one of the biggest ever selling live streamed shows performing with a full-band in the Natural History Museum in London.
Hits include: Power Over me, Outnumbered & Giants.
Dolores O’Riordan / The Cranberries:
Dolores O’Riordan was the lead singer of the Cranberries, the famous Limerick alternative rock band with a distinct Celtic element. Dolores’s captivating vocals alongside a talented group of band members took the world by storm, and they used their platform to create music that is both catchy and socially conscious.
Originally called ‘The Cranberry Saw Us’, the band comprised of brothers Noel and Mike Hogan and drummer Fergal Lawler. Following the departure of their original singer Niall Quinn, Dolores auditioned for the ban, bringing with her lyrics and melodies. She was hired on the spot after showing the group a rough version of what would become Linger, one of their most popular songs.
Dolores O’Riordan tragically died of an accidental drowning in 2018, at the age of 46. the band had been working on a new album, and using demo vocals of Dolores, they released their final album in 2019, featuring the single ‘All Over Now’.
Hits include: Linger, Dreams, Ode to my Family & Zombie.
Phil Lynott / Thin Lizzy
The lead singer of Thin Lizzy, Lynott was one of the first artists to merge poetry and rock music. Born to a Brazilian father and Irish mother, Growing up in 1950’s and 60’s Ireland and performing in the 1970’s, Phil was able to overcome the racism and discrimination of that era, emerging as a global rockstar. Phil was shaped by artists such as Van Morrison as well as Jimi Hendrix
Other band members include Brian Downey, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, however the line up changed over the years.
Lynott was raised mostly by his grandmother Sarah, and even named his daughter after her. he wrote songs about both of them but ‘Sarah’ about his daughter is the most well known. Lynott also released many books of poetry throughout his career.
Phil Lynott sadly died in 1986, at only 36 years old, but his legacy in Thin Lizzy continues to inspire many artists and musicians all over the world, a charismatic and mulit-talented Irish artist, forever immortalised as a legend in the world of rock and roll.
Hits include: The Boys are back in Town, Dancing in the Moonlight, Sarah & Whiskey in the Jar.
Andrew Hozier-Byrne was born in 1990, in Bray Co. Wicklow. A singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Hozier attended Trinity College Dublin, but dropped out after one year to record demos with Universal Music.
Hozier’s career skyrocketed in 2013 when “Take Me To Church” Hozier’s first EP became a viral success online, earning him a Grammy Nomination. Both the song and music video for Take me to Church were hailed for their social commentary on how religious organisations, especially the Catholic Church in Ireland, discriminated against members of the LGBT community.
Hozier’s success continued with the release of his eponymous debut album, and he spent the next few years performing. in 2018 he released his EP ‘Nina Cried Power’ to critical and commercial acclaim
His second album ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ hit number one in the US and Ireland, after its release in 2019.
Hits include: Take Me To Church, Someone New, Cherry Wine & Almost.
One of Irish music’s best singer/songwriters, Christy helped to revive traditional Irish Music in modern day Ireland, mixing elements of rock and pop with trad. He has been a major inspiration to artists such as U2 and the Pogues.
Christy Moore was the former lead vocalist of Planxty and Moving Hearts. Luka Bloom as known as Barry Moore, another well known Irish Musician is the younger brother of Christy.
His incredible discography includes albums such as Ride on (1984), Ordinary Man (1985), Voyage (1989) as well as countless live albums.
In 2007 Christy was named as Ireland’s greatest living musician in RTÉ’s People of the Year Award.
During the Covid Pandemic Christy Moore was further immortalised, appearing alongside, Hozier, Lisa Hannigan and Sinéad O’Connor on a set of special An Post stamps, commemorating their performances at Glastonbury and donating some of the proceeds to a Music Industry Covid-19 Emergency fund. The four artists performed in the GPO to a virtual audience to celebrate this occasion, something which Moore said was one of the greatest achievements of his life.
Christy is touring throughout Ireland in 2022, playing songs from a career that has spanned over 40 years.
Hits include: Ride On, Black is the Colour, Ordinary Man, Nancy Spain, City of Chicago, Beeswing, the Contender & The Cliffs of Dooneen
Famous Irish Artists
Bacon was born in Dublin in 1909 before moving to London in 1915, as his father took a job in the Record Office for the Territorial Force during WWII. The family moved home in 1918, but continued to move back and forth. Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s work which he saw when he travelled around Europe, Bacon decided to start painting.
Bacon would go on to become one of Ireland’s most revered painters, whose style was figurative, raw and sometimes seen as unsettling.
Famous Irish People : Sports
Conor Anthony McGregor was born on the 14th July 1988 in Dublin, Ireland. He is an Irish professional mixed martial arts and boxer. He is probably one of the biggest and most recognisable Irish sporting stars due to his success in mixed martial arts and for his huge personality, not afraid of how he feels.
McGregor joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 2013, known as “The Notorious.” He then went on to unify the featherweight division with his title win in 2015 and the year after that he became a two-division champion by winning the lightweight title.
In 2017, Conor McGregor made a huge move to boxing and had his first and only fight so far with Floyd Mayweather, Conor famously lost the fight. Although he lost the fight, he still got a huge payout of 100 million pounds, so you could say it all worked out well.
McGregor has delved into the world of entrepreneurship, selling his own proper 12 whisky and opening a bar and restaurant, the Black Forge Inn.
George best has been considered one of the best footballers of all time. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he grew up playing football and at the age of 15 years old he was spotted by a football scout.
The scout sent a message to Manchester United Manager, Matt Busby that said: “I think I’ve found you a genius.” Only two years after being scouted, George Best made his debut for United at 17 years old. He also went on to play for Northern Ireland and the Irish football association described him as “the greatest player to ever out in the green shirt for Northern Ireland.”
In his adult years, Best began to have an alcohol problem, leading to numerous controversies and eventually his death. At the young age of 59, Best passed away in hospital as a result of lung infections and multiple organ failures. Despite his alcohol problem, no one could deny how great of a footballer he was and he inspired so many people all around the world.
On the 22nd of May 2006, which would have been George’s 60th birthday; Belfast City Airport was renamed the George Best Belfast City Airport as a tribute to him in the city he grow up in.
A keen golfer from as early as a toddler with a plastic club, McElroy’s rise to success was an organic one. At just nine years of age, Rory won the under-10 World Championship in Doral, Florida.
Rory became the youngest golfer to secure his European Tour card, winning his first European Tour title in the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009.
Winning his fourth Major title in 2014, Rory joined the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, being only one of 3 to have won 4 Major titles under 25 years of age.
In 2020 Rory was world number one for the first time since 2015.
born in 1971 in Cork Roy Keane is one of Ireland’s greatest soccer players and one of the greatest midfielders of his generation. Keane has won 19 major trophies in his club career, 17 of them from his time at Manchester United.
Beginning at Cobh Ramblers, Keane was signed to Nottingham Forest and Manchester United before finishing his career with a year at Celtic in 2006.
Keane excelled as a captain for United from ’97-’05 as well as captain or most of his career playing for the Ireland at an international level. Known for his fiery personality Keane had the skill to back controversies such as being sent home from the 2002 world cup over a dispute with Mick McCarthy, the Ireland coach; “Sir Alex Ferguson labelled him the best he ever worked with“.
After his retirement Keane remained involved in the world of soccer. He managed Sunderland, and the team were promoted from 23rd place in the Football League Championship to the Premier League after winning the division. Keane acted as assistant manager for the Republic of Ireland’s international team from ’13-’18. He is also a featured pundit on Sky Sports and Match of the Day. Keane was inducted into the premier league hall of fame in 2021 for all of his achievements.
Born in 1979 in Dublin, Brian O’Driscoll is a former professional rugby player who captained and played for Leinster, Ireland and the Irish & British Lions over a period of fifteen years.
O’Driscoll has won 1 Six Nations Grand Slam (awarded when the championship winning team has won all of their games), 2 Six Nation Championships and has scored 46 tries in 133 caps for Ireland.
O’Driscoll has many achievements to his name, a Six Nations record try scorer, the fourth most capped player in rugby union history and Six nations player of the tournament 2006, 2007, and 2009. He was also voted World Rugby Player of the Decade 2000-2009 by the magazine World Rugby.
Brian O’Driscoll married Irish Actress Amy Huberman in 2010 and they have 3 children together.
Famous Irish Olympians, Paralympians and Athletes
Famous Irish heroes should inspire people to achieve their dreams; to work hard to pursue their goals; and to remember their roots and the people who helped to build them up to the place they are now. By all definitions Katie Taylor meets this defintion.
Katie Taylor is one of the best female boxers to come from Ireland and maybe even the best female boxer in the world at this moment. Born and raised in Bray, Ireland; Katie started off boxing at the young age of 11 and was coached by her dad, Peter Taylor.
At the age of 15 years old, she fought her first official female boxing match in Ireland and of course she won. She has then gone on to fight in the Olympics in 2012, where she came home with Gold. Taylor turned professional in 2016 and has gone on to win numerous fights. Katie is currently the unified lightweight female world champion.
In may 2018 she was ranked as the worlds second best active female lightweight boxer. Katie Taylor has become an amazing role model for other young girls and boys wanting to get into the boxing sport and represents Ireland well: humble, skilled and determined, she is undoubtedly one of our greatest exports!
At the age of 17 Barry McGuigan won the gold medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games as an amateur. As a professional Barry won the British, European and World Titles. In 1985 Barry became the featherweight champion of the world defeating Eusebio Pedroza.
Barry was a symbol of unity at a time of great political, religious and sectarian divide in Ireland, born and raised in Ireland throughout The Troubles. Barry was raised Catholic, and married his childhood sweetheart who was Protestant. His boxing fights brought people together; Danny Boy was often sung by his father Pat before fights.
Barry has worked as a successful boxing commentator and columnist since retirement. He also worked closely with Daniel Day-Lewis to make the movie ‘The Boxer’ (1997), a Golden Globe nominee and critically acclaimed film. McGuigan trained Day-Lewis as well choreographing and editing all of the boxing scenes.
In 2009 McGuigan the inaugural Barry McGuigan Boxing Academy, which aimed to encourage young people to continue their pursuit of sport and education.
Jason Smyth is one of the most skilled Paralympians in Irish history, having wn 6 gold Paralympic medals from 2008-2020. Born in Derry, Jason has never been defeated in a major Para-Athletic event since his 2005 European Championship debut in Espoo Finland.
The World Record holder on both the 100m and 200m events, Smyth’s consistency is unparalleled. Jason competes in the T13 category for athletes that have a Visual Impairment, as he is legally blind.
You learn about all of Jason Smyths achievements, as well as other Paralympic athletes on the Paralympic Ireland website.
During the 90’s Sonia O’ Sullivan became one of Ireland best athletes and sporting stars as she won many medals in the Olympics, World Championships and European Championships. Sonia became an inspiration to many and brought hope back to Ireland after it had been hit by a huge economic difficulty.
Through her sporting career, she racked up an impressive 8 gold, 6 silver and 2 bronze medals at the world’s most important athletic competitions. In 2007 she finally retired from competing in sports but she went on to become a sports commentator for RTE.
Famous Irish Comedians
Better known as Father Ted to some, Dermot Morgan starred in one of the most iconic Irish TV shows of all time. A sit-com parodying priests and Irish life in general, Father Ted was not only hilarious but also ahead of its time, depicting the priests as morally dubious and often self serving characters.
Morgan’s career had just skyrocketed with he success of Fr. Ted, an he was in talks to produce more sitcoms due to the critical acclaim of Fr. Ted. The Show won 2 BAFTA’s for best comedy in 1996 and 1999, and Morgan won best actor. Morgan and Pauline McLynn won the British Television Award for Best TV Comedy Actor and Actress respectively in 1996.
Unfortunately after filming the last episode of the third and final series of Father Ted, Morgan passed away only a day later from a heart attack at a dinner party; he was only 45 years old. Morgan again won the British Television Award for Best TV Comedy Actor posthumously in 1999. The President of Ireland Mary McAleese as well as Former President Mary Robinson were just two of many esteemed guests who attended his funeral.
Entertaining a nation for over 40 years, Brendan Grace passed away in 2019 aged 68, forever remembered as Irelands most popular live comedian.
One of Grace’s most popular reoccurring gags was the character of Botler, the hilarious school boy. Grace was also a gifted singer, his version of ‘combine harvester’ was a number one hit in Ireland. In fact at age 18 he formed a show band called ‘The Gingermen’ and toured Ireland.
Alongside his many live shows that have since been televised, Grace appeared as Fr. Stack alongside Dermot Morgan in an episode of Father Ted as well as Big Sean in another comedy favourite, Pat Shortt’s Killinaskully
Grace battled illness in his final years, but continued to tour despite his difficulties. He survived by his wife Eileen and his four children. You can read more about his life here.
Born on the 16th June 1969 in Donegal, Tommy Tiernan is an Irish Comedian high in demand.
Tommy has toured many successful comedy specials as a stand up comedian but did you know that in 2009 he set the Guinness World Record for the longest Stand-Up Comedy Show by an individual by a staggering 36 hrs and 15 minutes.
He also performed his 2000th show in Vicar St. Dublin in 2013, a feat which no other performer has yet to achieve.
Hector made an appearance in Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl music video alongside fellow podcast host, comedian and former school mate Hector Ó hEochagáin as well as international superstar Saoirse Ronan.
Recently Tommy has starred in the hit Channel 4 sitcom ‘Derry Girls’ as Erin’s ‘Da Gerry’. He also has his own weekly podcast ‘The Tommy Hector and Laurita Podcast‘ and hosts ‘The Tommy Tiernan Show’ a primetime Saturday night show on RTÉ with a special twist – he has no idea who he will be interviewing until they arrive on stage in front of a live audience, a fresh concept that guarantees a good laugh as well as its fair share of heartfelt moments.
Chris O’Dowd is an Irish actor and Comedian with an impressive career. A Roscommon native, O’Dowd was born in Boyle in 1979.
His most notable role is Roy Trenneman in the IT Crowd (2016-2013). O’Dowd has also featured in This is 40 (2012), Monsters vs. Aliens (2013-2014), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016), Loving Vincent (2017), Molly’s Game (2017), Mary Poppins Returns (2018) and even an episode of the Simpsons.
Another Highlight of O’Dowd’s career is the hit TV series Moone Boy, where O’Dowd portrays the imaginary friend of Martin Moone a young boy growing up in small-town Ireland in the 1990’s. O’Dowd created and co-wrote the show.
For such a small country, Ireland has produced some of the most famous Irish people that are recognised all around the globe. From well-known actors to presidents of the United States, Political leaders, musicians and sporting stars; it is no wonder how the Irish have made their mark all over the world.
Have you ever met any famous Irish people? We would love to hear any stories you have of meeting famous Irish people!
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